Friday, 20 May 2016
Federal MP Stuart Robert channelled $70,000 from his Liberal Nationals Party campaign fund to three local government candidates
This was MP for Fadden Stuart Robert, the then Australian Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Minister for Human Services newly appointed by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, on 28 November 2015:
Fast forward to May 2016 and this is the Member for Fadden.
The Australian, 3 May 2016:
Sacked Turnbull cabinet minister Stuart Robert secretly bankrolled the campaigns of three independent council candidates on the Gold Coast, fuelling calls for his disendorsement by the Liberal National Party on the eve of the federal election.
The funnelling of at least $70,000 out of Mr Robert’s LNP branch fundraising arm, the Fadden Forum, into the campaigns of the independents before March 31 local government elections has already led to the demotion of LNP state director Lincoln Folo.
Mr Robert, under investigation by the Australian Federal Police over a 2014 trip to China with a donor friend, may have breached party rules by directing the LNP funds to the independents without the approval of his branch.
It is understood Malcolm Turnbull is aware of the emerging scandal after a meeting of the LNP’s state executive decided not to take any action against Mr Robert, who holds the Gold Coast seat of Fadden, despite internal calls for his disendorsement.
Instead, Mr Folo — who made the transfers at the behest of Mr Robert — was removed last month as state director and appointed campaign director in a move the LNP has publicly claimed was part of plan to split the roles because of growing administrative duties.
LNP state president Gary Spence yesterday defended the decision to keep Mr Robert as the LNP’s endorsed candidate despite conceding the transfer of the LNP supporters’ funds to the independents was “inappropriate’’……..
The funds were given to John Brent, the now-ousted long-serving mayor of the Scenic Rim Regional Council on the Gold Coast hinterland, and newly elected Gold Coast independent councillor Kristyn Boulton.
Mr Brent yesterday confirmed his campaign was given $10,000, while Ms Boulton — who refused to confirm or deny if Mr Robert had supported her campaign — is understood to have received $30,000.
A third independent candidate on the Gold Coast, who was unsuccessful at the election, received $30,000 but did not return calls yesterday…….
Gold Coast Bulletin, 6 May 2016:
INDEPENDENT Gold Coast City Council candidates Kristyn Boulton and Felicity Stevenson did not reveal the $60,000 in LNP donations they received through Federal MP Stuart Robert when confronted by voters and rivals during the election.
Candidates in their divisions have also told the Gold Coast Bulletin they were intimidated by a volunteer at a pre-polling booth if they told voters the LNP was bankrolling or backing the party workers.
Mr Robert, for the first time, yesterday revealed he told his former office workers in early February that they would be getting financial backing from his rich fundraising arm, the Fadden Forum, to beat Labor rivals.
“I’m fighting Labor. I now have an interest. I will provide you with some support,” he said.
But Facebook posts, community debates and verbal exchanges at the pre-polling booths by early March show neither Ms Boulton nor Ms Stevenson told anyone their biggest financial backer was their former boss.
On February 18 on Facebook, Ms Stevenson wrote: “Honesty and transparency are important so I thank you for contacting me to ask these questions. I am funding my campaign from my own savings and local supporters.
“I have recieved (sic) no funding from developers. I am not a member of any political party. I have not received funding from any political party.”…….
ABC News, 17 May 2016:
Gold Coast City councillors and their financial backers are under scrutiny by state and federal authorities following allegations of undisclosed Liberal National Party (LNP) funding of candidates in the March local elections.
It comes after revelations federal Liberal MP Stuart Robert channelled tens of thousands of dollars from his national LNP campaign fund, the Fadden Forum, to council candidates who stood as independents.
Mr Robert has confirmed he gave candidates Kristyn Boulton and Felicity Stevenson $30,000 each from the Fadden Forum to run their campaigns.
Both are former staffers in Mr Robert's electorate office.
Queensland law was changed in 2007 following a corruption inquiry into the 2004 Gold Coast elections, creating three categories of candidates: independents, groups and political parties.
All candidates must now declare their status, with heavy fines for failing to disclose which type applies.
There are now calls for a broad inquiry into the conduct of this year's local election on the Gold Coast, which has the second-largest council in Australia after Brisbane, with an annual budget of more than $1 billion.
By law, council candidates are not obliged to disclose details of their financial backing until weeks after the election. The deadline in this case is July 4…….
The Electoral Commission of Queensland (ECQ) said that "in light of the allegations and reports" it would "inquire into the activities" of the Fadden Forum once the disclosure deadline expired.
"If candidates are running as a group, as defined under the LGEA, then they must declare their membership of that group," the ECQ said in a statement to 7.30.
"Candidates cannot work together to promote themselves or fundraise during the election unless they register as a group with the returning officer."
The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) told 7.30 it, too, would look into the matter after it was raised in Senate estimates this month.
"The AEC will undertake appropriate inquiries to determine whether there has been a breach of disclosure requirements by any of the parties mentioned," it said…….
It has also emerged that as many as five or more candidates may have used an LNP-linked lobbyist and former public relations adviser to Mayor Tom Tate, Simone Holzapfel, for campaign advice and support, giving rise to questions about their connections.
7.30 has established that Cr Tate, Division 7 Councillor and former mayor Gary Baildon, and Division 12 Councillor Pauline Young all used Ms Holzapfel's services.
All three deny acting as a bloc.
Planning committee chairman and Division 3 Councillor, Cameron Caldwell, told 7.30 he had received no donation or gift in kind from Ms Holzapfel but declined to comment on whether she had worked on his campaign.
Cr Boulton, who was elected in Division 4, was reported in the Gold Coast Bulletin as having received Ms Holzapfel's help, but she did not respond to 7.30's requests for comment.
Mr Robert's former staffer Felicity Stevenson, who was not elected, and former president of the Young LNP and Division 11 Councillor Hermann Vorster — who had campaigning support from Young LNP volunteers — also did not respond……
Ms Holzapfel was previously a staffer in former prime minister Tony Abbott's office when he was health minister in the Howard government.
Her clients have included developers ASF, which wants to develop a cruise ship terminal on the Gold Coast and Sunland, which has plans for a 44-storey twin tower scheme on undeveloped beachfront land at The Spit.
Ms Holzapfel reportedly donated $114,000 to the Fadden Forum in 2013 in multiple small amounts, although this does not appear in publicly available disclosure documents.
7.30 has no evidence that either Ms Holzapfel or the candidates acted improperly.
The Fadden Forum does not make separate disclosures of its activities to electoral authorities as electoral watchdogs consider it to be part of the LNP…….
Surrounded by political scandals and allegations of wrongdoing as he is, an ordinary person might have thought that the Turnbull Government would quietly distance itself from him.
However, there was Treasurer Scott Morrison with Stuart Robert on 17 May 2016 – the ninth day of the federal election campaign: